Opinions on Sustainable Development

Technology and Unemployment

Today, I am going to talk about a major anxiety our society is having throughout the world. It is not about COVID, it is not about nuclear war and it is also not about climate change as most of you might think. I am talking about a prediction that there will be widespread unemployment in the near future. Experts say that 90% of today’s jobs will not be available in the near future due to Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. 

Is it really true, do you believe it? Of course, these are opinions of the experts, so we blindly believe it. I have done some research and my conclusion is that we don’t have to worry too much. We will definitely cross the bridge when we get there.

In fact, this is a subject for a PhD dissertation or as a minimum an M Tech. thesis. However, I will try to explain my findings in a nutshell. 

Let me first take you through the history of mankind. We have witnessed three major technological changes until now and the fourth one, the real villain, has just started. Of course there were many smaller technological changes in between, I am not talking about those innovations such as internet, genetic engineering, bio technology etc. I am talking about real game changers. 

By the way, any guess, what was the first real technological revolution happened in the history of mankind? It was the beginning of farming almost 12000 years ago. Until farming started, hunting was the only avocation humans used to have. I am sure, those hunters must have been worried about their job when collective farming was introduced. They must have predicted that half of them would lose their jobs. But, we know that agriculture was the major source of livelihood until industrial revolution took place in the 18th century. So the first prediction of job loss did not take place. In fact, it only increased our opportunities. 

Now, let us look at what happened during industrial revolution which I would consider as the second major technological change in the history. In this phase, machines started replacing human physical work. Again, there was a prediction that many people would lose jobs due to massive industrialization. In fact, a movement in Britton called Luddite movement originated just to oppose the mechanizations in order to retain the artisan’s jobs. Again, this prediction also failed. After agriculture, industries became the major provider of livelihood. 

The third technological change started in the 80s and it was the computer revolution. The major change was; computers have started replacing the human’s mental work. Again experts predicted that millions will lose jobs to the computers. There were widespread agitations all over the world against computerization. But, look at what happened, Computerization brought about not only economic progress, it also became a major source of employment. Once again, the experts went wrong. 

Now, we are just witnessing the beginning of the 4th technological change in the human history i.e. AI, Robotics and Automation. AI and Robotics have started replacing not only physical work, but human intelligence too. People feel that there is nothing left for us to do, these technologies will take away all our jobs. But, in reality, it is going to improve our quality of life tremendously. It will also create new opportunities. Again, like before, how the predictions failed three times, this time also it will fail. So there is no reason for any anxiety or worry about losing jobs. If you still cannot believe, let me show you a picture because seeing is believing. He has been regularly visiting our street for sharpening the knife using a pedal powered knife sharpener. No mechanization or robotics could replace him until now, and I am sure, it will not happen in the near future.

Of course, there is one worry for all of us. As the notable economist John Keynes predicted in his famous essay “Economic possibilities of our Grandchildren” that, in 2030, our most pressing problem would be how to occupy our leisure time after a century of economic growth. So let us not worry about our jobs, let us worry about our leisure time.

Thank you.


Pradeep P K


Myth about Dropouts

MICROSOFT, APPLE, DELL, FACEBOOK, WHATSAPP, UBER …. Do you find anything common among these companies? Yes, they are all big tech companies. But, today I am referring to them for entirely a different reason.

Recently, I came across a news item regarding campus interview. One company has asked specifically to shortlist students with maximum supplementary exams. The employer’s justification was that if a student is able to clear maximum number of supplementary papers in the final year, they can work under pressure. I asked myself, how can a student with maximum supplementary papers be better than a student who was able to show consistent performance over a long period of time?

This prompted me to recall a small conversation I had with my company driver almost two decades ago. When someone is new in the company, normally Drivers will be your first friends. During one of my trips to site, I casually asked the driver about his family. He told me that he has one son and he just passed Tenth grade that year. He also told me that his son doesn’t want to study further. His decision was based on the fact that his father who did not pass class X, but still he was earning a good salary almost equal to an Engineer’s salary with overtime. In those days, most of the European companies in the middle east were paying a handsome salary to the drivers. So in his case, he intentionally stopped his education at Tenth grade. I have no clue what happened to him.

Let me come back to the list of companies I mentioned at the beginning of my speech. Other than, they are all tech companies, another commonality among them is that they all were founded by college dropouts.

Bill Gates, dropped out from the prestigious Harvard University and started Microsoft. At one point of time, Bill Gates was the richest person on the earth. And he was a college dropout. Same is the case with Paul Allen who was co-founder of Microsoft. Steve Jobs quit the college just after one semester, travelled in India for about a year, then went back and started Apple. Today, you know very well where Apple stands. Dell, the leading computer hardware retailer, was started by another college dropout, Michael dell. He dropped out of University of Texas in his very first year. The ubiquitous Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg, who left Harvard in his second year to start Facebook and it became the world’s largest social network.

The list goes on, WhatsApp, Uber … This gives a feeling that all the college dropouts are highly successful and being dropout is a qualification to become rich and successful. This also gives a wrong signal to the youngsters in the college that a college degree is nothing, it cannot bring them any good.

But, what is the fact? They all dropped out from prestigious universities, getting admission to such universities itself tells us that they are super intelligent. Let me give another fact. Look at the CEOs of all those tech companies I mentioned earlier. Microsoft, now led by Sathya Nadella a gold medalist. Google’s Sunder Pichai is from IIT and Wharton School. Even though those companies were founded by college dropouts, they hire gold medalists when they fill the top posts.

So, my advice to all the youngsters is that don’t get carried away by the biographies of those founders. It is not a nice idea to be a dropout. Merit has always it value.

Pradeep P. K.